Area 51 was released in October 1995.
Developed by Mesa Logic for Atari (although also licensed as a Time Warner product in certain territories), Area 51 was the first game for the Cojag hardware. The 'Cojag' represents Coin-Operated Jaguar, as in the Atari console. The Jaguar hardware was adapted for use in an arcade setting, with a slightly modified board to bring it in line with the standard Atari arcade system. Since the hardware could process very large amounts of data, it was considered far cheaper to store this on an IDE hard drive, connected to the main board. The hard drive was the key to the game play's movie capability. There's about 23 minutes of video on the 1 GB hard drive. The Cojag system can support 16Bit video streams. The original Area 51 uses 1 15 Bit stream for the main video, and an additional 1 Bit stream for the Kronn Hunter palette corruption. Apparently Atari wanted the sprites in Kronn Hunter mode to change colour as the chance of them killing you increased, but this idea was abandoned. It did, however, resurface in some of the home versions.
Another interesting fact is that the software designer had the option of using either a 68010 or a MIPS R3000 as the primary CPU - making the Cojag the first 2 in 1 hardware option, although it was more of a hotswappable system than two processors in one. Indeed, later production runs of Area 51 used the R3000, for greater compatibility with "Maximum Force
", the followup game.
Note : Often associated with UFO lore, Area 51 is originally the former designation by Department of Energy of a plot of land in Nevada. Sometimes referred to as Groom Lake or Dreamland, the United States government is believed to operate some sort of research and development center there (Some claim that the facility is now closed).
The music was done by Michael Stein and NOT by Jeanne Parson (even if officially credited on the credits roll). She was pissed that Rob Rowe hired an outside guy. She was on staff, but Rob didn't like her music.
Rick Haynes holds the official record for this game with 2,188,400 points on April 10, 1999.